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Vacation Fishing in RMNP, Conclusion

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

It was Friday. We had a day and a half left in the Park. We had a good time seeing things in the Park. It was great fun to watch the elk as they were in the rut. For the first time we got to see a testosterone match between some of the bulls. They do go at it when they get into this fighting mode.

We saw five six point bulls and two seven point bulls while we were in the Park. You could make a lot of Elk Hair Caddis out of one of those hides. There were also some very large cow elk in the herds. We had stayed out a couple of evenings after dark to just listen to the elk as they bugled.

I woke up early Friday morning and decided to go down to the Roaring River. It was just down from the cabin and I would have a good chance of none else being on the stream at that time.

I did get down to the stream and stated casting up the stream and drifting a PTN down the current.

I had on a red PTN with a small beadhead. I tried to cast to bring the fly down by any little pockets of still water. I hoped there might be a fish laying in that quiet water waiting for some food to come by. It did work a few times. I hooked, and landed, a few small trout.

I continued to work upstream until I got to the place where the water came over some rocks that formed a type of dam. Most of the water came over the right side of this dam as I was facing upstream and that was the side that I was on. There was also a large boulder that was on the right side about six feet downstream from the dam so the water swirled around that. Behind the rock were a couple of small trees that prevented me from trying to cast from the rock. The branches were right on top of it, but did not extend over it.

I was sure that there would be some trout in this water. I would just have to get a fly down to them. Or tempt them to come up and get a fly. I also knew this was a time that I was going to have to cast left-handed to get the fly to drop behind the rock and sweep through the water there. No way could I do it right-handed. I sure am glad that a few years ago JC talked about learning to cast with your off hand. I worked on it a lot and can cast halfway decently to about 25 to 30 feet. I am getting better with it.

I made the first cast and brought a PTN just off the boulder. The fly had dropped near the corner of the dam and was sweeping along the face of the bolder. It was about half way along when the line quit moving. I set the hook and was into a nice fish that decided to head downstream. I did get the fish turned and managed to keep it away from any of the sticks in the stream.

It was a beautiful rainbow, about 16 inches long. She went back into the water. I made another cast, but this one was out about a foot farther than the first cast had been. The fly had just gone under the surface when the line went sideways. I was into another fish and this one just did not want to come away from the dam. It was a process of holding on and hoping that the fish tired out a little. I had been using some 5X tippet, not the best thing to try to horse a fish with. I continued to keep as much pressure on the fish as I thought that I could.

It was one of those times that the endurance exhibited on one end of the line or the other was going to determine if the fish could be landed. I sure did want to see what this fish was. It was still this thing of the fish swimming back and forth along the face of the dam. But I was not going to give in to this fish.

I had been concentrating on the fish so much that I had not heard anyone come up behind me. It turned out to be a Colorado Conservation Officer. He wondered what I had hooked into and wanted to be sure that I had a licence to be fishing. This was the first time in 20 plus years of being out of state that I have ever been asked for a licence. I told him that I had it, but I wanted to wait until I had the fish landed before I showed it to him.

I finally got the fish to tire a little and I could get it away from the dam. She then went deep into the hole and tried to stay there. I put a little more pressure on her to try to keep her moving so that I would be able to land her. This tactic worked for me and I finally got to the point where it was a tug-of-war. I would bring her close and she would go back out. But each time, she did not go as fast or as far. Finally I got her head up and I was able to bring her to the shore.

I got my hand under her and moved her over to a patch of grass . I could not see the fly and wanted to see if I could take it out without harming her, or if I would need to leave it in. That is when I found that the fly had worked its way through the gill plates on one side and the fish was hemorrhaging blood out of those. It had been badly damaged in the fight.

The Conservation Officer said the he did not think she would live if she was returned to the water. He felt she had lost a lot of blood in the fight and with the lactic acid build up in her system, survival chances were small. I showed him my licence to show that I was legal. The biggest point in my keeping this fish was that she did not flip flop any while laying in the grass for that short time period. The other fish had all been twisting and turning.

He did ask me how I managed to hook her. I showed him how I had cast. I made another cast into the same general area and was letting the fly drift back when another fish took the fly. This fish never came out of the water, but scooted all over the pool. I am sure there are airplane pilots that wish they could twist and turn all the ways that this fish did.

It was a nice brook trout. This fish was about a foot long. It sure was a pretty fish. The Conservation Officer said that I should keep this one also. We were so close to the Park that he wanted folks to keep the brook trout. They are trying to get the Greenback Cutthroats reintroduced in all the streams and the brookies are sever competition to the cutthroats.

I told him I was done then as I wanted to take care of the fish. I did ask him if he wanted to make a cast while he was there. He accepted the chance. He dropped the fly near the other side of the dam where there were some rocks. The fly had moved a little way when he connected with a fish.

It took a few minutes and then he landed a brown trout that was just short of a foot long. It was a pretty fish that went back into the water. He thanked me for the chance.

That ended my fishing in the Park for this trip. Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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